Revealed: Top law firms average arrive and leave the office times

The ones who work late often get in quite late

sleepinoffice

Legal Cheek has spent the last few months gathering all sorts of data from rookie solicitors at the leading corporate law firms.

On Friday we revealed which firms scored highest for training in our survey of over 1,500 trainees and junior lawyers spanning across 56 UK-based firms. And today, on World Mental Health Day, we’re unveiling when they arrive at the office… and when they leave.

In the list below firms are ranked in order of latest departure time, but do consider also the arrival times, which vary widely.

Legal Cheek Trainee & Junior Lawyer Survey — arrive and leave times

LAW FIRM AVERAGE ARRIVAL TIME AVERAGE LEAVE TIME
Kirkland & Ellis 9:44am 9:14pm
Freshfields 9:14am 8:57pm
Clifford Chance 9:27am 8:56pm
White & Case 9:20am 8:55pm
Latham & Watkins 9:21am 8:54pm
Linklaters 9:32am 8:26pm
Simmons & Simmons 9:03am 8:11pm
Jones Day 9:04am 8:08pm
Allen & Overy 9:30am 8:06pm
Herbert Smith Freehills 9:16am 8:01pm
Macfarlanes 9:04am 7:59pm
King & Wood Mallesons 9:16am 7:57pm
Dechert 9:06am 7:56pm
Norton Rose Fulbright 9:05am 7:56pm
Weil 9:27am 7:56pm
Reed Smith 8:57am 7:49pm
Shearman & Sterling 9:28am 7:47pm
CMS 9:08am 7:47pm
Slaughter and May 9:04am 7:41pm
Baker & Mckenzie 9:21am 7:37pm
Mishcon de Reya 8:42am 7:34pm
Ashurst 9:17am 7:34pm
Travers Smith 9:16am 7:27pm
BLP 9:07am 7:23pm
Hogan Lovells 9:06am 7:22pm
Watson Farley 9:17am 7:22pm
Mayer Brown 9:09am 7:20pm
K&L Gates 9:07am 7:17pm
Dentons 8:59am 7:16pm
Charles Russell Speechlys 8:57am 7:09pm
Nabarro 8:57am 7:08pm
Gowling WLG 9:02am 7:07pm
Eversheds 8:48am 7:04pm
DLA Piper 8:47am 7:03pm
Olswang 9:15am 7:03pm
Taylor Wessing 9:02am 6:59pm
RPC 8:46am 6:57pm
Clyde & Co 8:53am 6:55pm
Osborne Clarke 8:53am 6:51pm
Bird & Bird 9:14am 6:50pm
Fieldfisher 9:09am 6:50pm
Howard Kennedy 9:05am 6:48pm
Addleshaw Goddard 8:47am 6:48pm
Pinsent Masons 8:51am 6:46pm
Burges-Salmon 8:52am 6:45pm
Squire Patton Boggs 8:30am 6:44pm
DWF 8:39am 6:37pm
Bristows 8:58am 6:35pm
Hill Dickinson 8:30am 6:34pm
TLT 8:37am 6:34pm
Bond Dickinson 8:25am 6:30pm
Shoosmiths 8:36am 6:23pm
Trowers & Hamlins 8:43am 6:17pm
Mills & Reeve 8:41am 6:14pm
Irwin Mitchell 8:35am 6:12pm
DAC Beachroft 8:38am 6:08pm

Alongside the average times, we have received hundreds of comments from trainees and junior lawyers about their working hours. While most accepted that long hours were a central part of the deal they’d signed up for (the flip side being, of course, fantastic pay), the variability — and associated unpredictably — of the hours came as much more of a surprise.

Some suggested that it was impossible to estimate an average going home time, with comments like “anytime between 7pm and 4am” or even “7 on a good day, you don’t on a bad day” common among trainees at US firms’ London offices. Meanwhile, a young magic circler told us:

Sometimes I leave at 6 and it’s an absolute dream. Other times I leave at 10 and after weeks of finishing at 1, 10 feels like a dream.

Many more lamented the difficulty of making plans during the week and being able to stick to them, with another magic circle insider disclosing:

Work can overtake life but that is the case at most big firms from what friends say. Evening plans usually get delayed and sometimes cancelled.

A related complaint that came up regularly was about urgent work getting dumped on trainees and juniors’ desks relatively late in the day when they had been fairly quiet previously. Often this was blamed on the poor organisation skills of the partner or senior associate. There were also grumbles about weekend working, which is quite common during extra busy times at some top firms.

On a more positive note, many respondents to our survey noted how working hours vary vastly between departments, with “some parts of the office dead by 6.30pm whilst others are bustling until 2am” at one City outfit renowned for its long hours. Deal-driven corporate finance work was said to demand the most late nights.

With this being World Mental Health Day, we got in touch with LawCare in order to get their advice for trainees and junior lawyers who feel that they are being ground down by the long hours. The charity’s chief executive, Elizabeth Rimmer, told us:

One of the ways LawCare supports those in the legal community, and helps to break down the stigma around talking about mental health, is to be aware of the main issues affecting the legal community. There were 907 calls to the LawCare Helpline in 2015, and by far the most common issue callers reported was workplace stress, at 30% of calls. Callers mentioned long, antisocial or inflexible hours as a major factor causing them stress.

She continued with this advice:

We would encourage trainees and junior lawyers to follow some good wellbeing strategies to deal with stress, such as placing value on your personal time; planning ahead where you can; rewarding yourself when you complete a task and taking a short break before starting the next one; taking a proper lunch break where possible, and taking exercise and eating well are also important. There are plenty of positive strategies to help trainees and junior lawyers manage stress, and at LawCare we encourage people in the legal community to talk about how they are feeling and not to stay silent. Legal professionals can feel it’s a sign of weakness to admit they aren’t coping, but talking goes a long way towards addressing issues.

You can contact LawCare here.

If you would like to purchase a report containing a full breakdown of Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey results for your firm, benchmarked against the other participating firms and a custom selected group of peer firms, please contact Legal Cheek Research for more details.

55 Comments

Anonymous

This is really quite interesting!

However, for readers to really put any trust in the statistics you need to at least tell us how many respondents there were for each firm. If some firms only had one respondent that’s not going to paint a very reliable picture.

(61)(2)
Smuggies

At my high-street Legal Aid firm:

Arrive: 9am (if not in court).

Leave: 5pm.

#worklifebalance

(72)(15)
Smuggies

Nah, not really. Still a higher-rate taxpayer. Difference being I have the time to spend it.

#sourgrapes

(65)(7)
Anonymous

£43k is the threshold for higher rate… not really that impressive.

(14)(44)
Travelling Gavel

It is if you live somewhere where you can buy a reasonable house (4/5 bed detached, garden back and front on a nice street for under £250k)… I am in the same boat as Smuggies… and am not living in a shoe box, still living with parents or house sharing with strangers just to live in/near London… Take that and smoke it Anon@11.46

(45)(1)
Anonymous

I’m glad you’re happy, but, speaking from experience, most lawyers working at elite firms aren’t living in a shoebox…

Keep telling yourself they are though if it makes you happier.

(9)(12)
Anonymous

Smuggles didn’t say he was only earning 43K, just that he or she was a higher-rate taxpayer. I think it is a fair point that most lawyers doing publicly funded law will earn considerably less than the magic circle firms will pay newly qualified solicitors but can have a good work-life balance if they regularly work a 40 hour week and have a sufficient income to provide a comfortable living. Far easier to achieve outside London.

(14)(0)
@CRProudman

How do you know Smuggies is a “he”?

#instititionalsexism

(7)(3)
Travelling Gavel

Anonymous@5.23 – nor am I; I have a rather delightful Victorian former vicarage in a village in the Yorkshire wolds with 5 beds, 4 reception rooms, a small orchard and around an acre of gardens… all within a 30 minute drive to the office which has free parking… but it came in at at a shade under £400k an I am willing to bet both my nuts I couldn’t get that in London… So 9-6 and I am home to enjoy the fruits (in all senses) of my labour.

(11)(0)
Travelling Gavel

Anonymous@5.23 and @1.47- I forgot to mention – we have a station with fast direct links to London so if ever you are passing feel free to drop by… You may even find you like it!

(5)(0)
Anonymous

Is it impressive to earn 80k – 100k and not have any time to enjoy it? Is it impressive to live a life in which you only enjoy 2/7 of it because you never make any social plans during 5/7 of it? Is it impressive to have few hours of sleep and even the time that you are awake is filled with a whole load of stress?

I am a city lawyer and I really enjoy what I do but many city lawyer positions come with major drawbacks. If someone is earning 43k as a lawyer (decent money might I add and the original commenter did not say their salary was only 43k anyway) and leaving at 5pm, great value has been placed on that lawyer’s personal time.

(40)(1)
Anonymous

Where do you people come up with the idea that you have no time to enjoy yourself???

I earn 6 figures and get my weekends. I also don’t have to share with a stranger or live in a shithole as someone tried to suggest. I’d take this over 40k in the regions any day.

Each to their own, but this idea that you have no life at all if you work in the City is such nonsense.

(10)(30)
Anonymous

Yes, but the fact you earn 6 figures means you are one of the a$$hole senior associates or partners that dump the work on the trainees and NQs late in the day or on a Friday, and not one of the trainees of NQs that has to stay late or work weekends to do it.

(14)(2)
Anonymous

I’m NQ actually. Quite a few firms pay NQs 6 figures… Telling that you assumed only a senior associate or partner could earn that amount.

(4)(8)
Anonymous

As a senior in-house lawyer, I will go out of my way to never instruct the Magic-Circle-types that post this kind of arrogant, missing-the-point, bullying comment on sites like this.

I’ve come across my fair share of lawyers like this (especially the junior ones) who think they’re all-that because they work ‘x hours’ or get paid ‘y pounds’. None of that makes you a good lawyer – and they consistently proved that point.

(21)(1)
Anonymous

I go out of my way to never work for those who are chippy..

Guess it’s all equal!

(1)(8)
Anonymous

Hahaha – like you have any choice what clients you work for!!!!! Stop kidding yourself.

(9)(1)
Anonymous

You sound a complete dick. Despite what you Tory boys (as you sound like a man with that level of arrogance and rudeness against another commenter) might think, actually money isn’t everything. I used to work these sort of hours when I was in my 20’s and learning the job. But you will find that as you get more experience, more senior in your career so that you can manage client expectations, more control over your own life (and that means getting a life) (and perhaps better at your job) you will find that leaving at 5.30 is actually what is all about. otherwise you are a wage slave – or someone else’s whore.

(8)(1)
Smuggies

£50K actually, in my case.

Also, given the 40% tax rate, it’s not a massive amount less “in pocket” than some salaries that appear much, much higher.

The lower cost of living outside London makes for a better life and more time to enjoy it.

#contented

(28)(1)
Jonathan

Why would his job tell us about his life? He only said what his job was.

(0)(0)
Debrah

The new NSF reiqmreuents for schools does not allow for self-service any longer. This is probably a good idea. Food is better served by adults using the proper hand washing techniques, handling etc.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

According to this table:

Kirkland avg in office: 11.5 hours
Simmons & Simmons: 11.1 hours

Kirklandand NQ: 140k
Simmons & Simmons: 68k

If the table is accurate… ouch.

(119)(2)
Anonymous

The article under the table kind of undid the table – clearly it’s of little value to put together an average when the leaving times vary so much between time of year (August can be very quiet, for example) and between departments (Corporate – see you in six months, tax, pensions etc – see you at 6pm tonight).

(3)(0)
Anonymous

Very interesting but, as mentioned, there is a significant difference in working hours between different departments of the same firm (e.g. transactional real estate vs. finance). Consideration should also be given to different offices of the same firm.

(13)(0)
The Flying Butcher

You have to question the firms that aren’t even included on that table…trying to hide something perhaps? Or maybe their trainees didn’t have time to complete the survey as they were tied to their desk ROFL

(1)(2)
Anonymous

Or they knew that LC is an unrespected rag known for producing unreliable or biased articles? They could’ve quite easily lied on the survey if they wanted to ‘hide something’, you muppet.

(7)(4)
Legal

It depends what you want out of your career . If you don’t want to work the long hours and have a regular 9-5 Jon paid accordingly then leave . Nurses work 12 hour shifts throughout their working lives and they are saving lives all we are doing is sorting non life threatening problems – so get a grip . We all did the long hours and the dumping was done to is as trainees . It’s not ideal but if you don’t like the heat …..

(7)(4)
Anonymous

Slight exaggeration going on (speaking as a veteran of a couple of those up there), but not that much.

Best to consider these as the average arrival times that lawyers at each firm would not regard as early and leaving times they’d not regard as late. That’s not the same as the average time you actually arrive and the average time you actually leave (that’s probably about half an hour before and after).

Also, trainees are on there. Trainees talk rubbish to each other about their hours- they cherry-pick their worst days and make out like they happen all the time, largely because all the others are doing the same and no one wants to look like the slacker.

Finally, hours vary greatly between departments. Partly this is a function of the type of work, but ultimately (if we’re presuming that law firms are rational- a dangerous proposition) it’s down to how much the work each specialism can charge for and how “lumpy” the work is. (Firms have to be able to cover all hands on deck moments or they lose the trust of their clients and the rarer and bigger those moments are, the more often there’s “spare” capacity and the more often associates can go home early).

(15)(1)
Lyle of BSDs

Bizzaro.
Any Lawyers here?
I love this site. Hardly any one knows anything.
Any lawyer, knows you don’t have arrival and leaving times.
You live in the office.
LC live in a fantasy world.
Commuting is for mushrooms.

(5)(16)
Anonymous

What I find interesting is the hours being put in by trainees at a number of firms who boast about their ‘9 – 5 culture’ and pay very little accordingly e.g. Shoosmiths.

(6)(0)
Ganja

Shoosmiths, a shop that strikes fear into the hearts of all City lawyers.

A top megafirm that kicks ass and takes names.

(4)(6)
Anonymous

what about weekends? wouldn’t be surprised if KE is 9am to 9pm…Monday to sunday.

(8)(2)
Anonymous

I took the K&E times to mean Monday 9:44am am to Saturday 9.14 pm, but yeah, you’re right, I was foolish to think they’d get Sunday off.

(4)(1)
Non-transactional advisory lawyer

Can Legal Cheek publish a similar table based on practice areas rather than firms?

(6)(0)
Lord Lyle of Dim Sum

Alas mushrooms even Trumpenjung
And the mushrooms have no insight into their condition.
For mushrooms like Foo Yung
Go together in their depression
Whilst glorious Dim Sum
Fly to Heaven

(0)(2)
Lord Lyle of Prostrate Endo Digital Law

Non Transactional Advisory Lawyer.
Every day I hear a new one.
Did you know there are boutique hair salon, pedicure and manicure lawyers.

(0)(1)
Anonymous

More like “Prostate (up your) Endo (with a) Digital (penetration) Law!

(3)(1)
Anonymous

You can make 100k and like 48 hours or make 50k and live far more.

Work in an inhouse role, make less money and make more life!

(2)(1)
Smuggies

I suspect that when one considers the hours I’m required to work for my take-home, I and those of my lowly ilk may actually be paid a higher hourly rate than some of the slaves working evenings and weekends in commercial, when all’s said and done.

(4)(2)
Anonymous

Depends if you factor in on monetary remuneration. The top paying also provide private healthcare, life assurance, income protection insurance, free gyms, free dinners, free transport if working late.

Then you have to consider long term progression. Your role isn’t going to afford the opportunity to earn £1m PA a few years down the line, nor will you be able to semi-retire to a board role on 6 figures…

Sure the City may look bad at the start, but overall it’s a different matter.

(3)(0)
Travelling Gavel

Ok; so as a chap here described earlier as ‘in the regions’ and less than £50k; lets see what you are trumpeting;
private healthcare – check
life assurance – check
income protection insurance – check
free gyms – you got me there, but I do get significant discount
free dinners – nope but I get home at a reasonable time to eat with my wife and children
free transport if working late – see above
Ability to earn £1M+ pa – alas not… but hey; I can’t spend it if I’m in a box in the ground can I?

(1)(0)
Country bumpkin

Jeez, what’s with all the bickering?! Some people love the city lifestyle, cut throat behaviour, living in the office etc. Some people love a more predictable schedule and a slightly more leisurely pace. Good for you if you love what you do; I know I’m incredibly happy at a regional firm with good quality work, fantastic clients and great colleagues. Lower salary, but cash has never been a motivator for me – I’d be miserable as all hell if I moved to a magic circle or US firm. There’s plenty of other people who would hate to have to live on what I earn. Neither is wrong.

(6)(1)
Anonymous

Now, now everyone. The middle class is a broad church.

If you have a 5 bedroom vicarage because you earn a relatively large amount of money year after year out of people’s injuries, or their crimes, then there is room for you.

If you process forward purchase contracts for gas energy submitted by international clients who keep you working across time zones, there is room for you too.

If your regional commercial practice in property, regulatory or litigation is similar to a City firm, but with national clients who generate smaller numbers, rather than international clients, then there is also room for you.

If you are an associate because you don’t know anyone on the board of a company that can pay your firm £200 per hour, or if you a Partner from a boarding school originally with an elevated position in the equivalent of the Chamber of commerce, take your seat.

The main thing is to bear in mind that no one is expecting you to react like Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Mohandas Gandhi, Karl Marx or Jesus to being middle class – and you should embrace that you are not going to do so anytime soon.

Here is to ourselves and our friends and families and hark – although one NQ in the City earns six figures at 26, and one regional lawyer earns £60 k at 40, you may both enjoy the fact that you can afford the six cylinder BMW 3 litre in your cars, rather than the paltry 2 litre. Or is it the 2.0 tdi in your Audi A3s, in reality, rather than the 1.6 petrol ?

Amen

(4)(0)

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